The sluggish economy hasn't been good for industries like construction or manufacturing, but bad times are actually good for weirdness.

So says Edward Meyer, the head archivist for Ripley's Entertainment, http://www.ripleys.com/ who is in charge of purchasing the bizarre items featured in Ripley museums -- otherwise known as "Odditoriums" -- around the world.

"We're recession-proof," Meyer told the Huffington Post. "We're actually helped by it. People are always looking for a laugh."

You'd think it would be unbelievably hard to amaze Meyer, a guy whose office in Pensacola, Fla., includes a real shrunken head, a giant spider made of scissors, and a letter from a guy in Hong Kong who sent him his belly button lint.

But it still happens, he insists, as he discovered while working on the latest Ripley book, "Download The Weird."

GALLERY: WEIRD PICTURES FROM RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!

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  • Kathy Hayes' Toenails

    Los Angeles-based anthropologist Kathy Hayes has toenails that are five inches long. She only wears open-toed sandals to protect her nails.

  • What A Tongue

    Adrienne Lewis of Michigan is only 14, but her tongue measures a whopping 3.5 inches.

  • Einstein In Toast

    British artist Adam Sheldon uses toast to make incredible portraits of people like Albert Einstein.

  • Liu Fei Puts Snakes In His Nose

    For 30 years, Lui Fei of China has been pulling snakes through his nose, sometimes two at once.

  • Vomit Artist

    Millie Brown creates paintings by drinking dyed soy milk and vomiting it back on to a canvas. Her works sell for as much as $2,400.

  • Cow Stuck In Ladder

    This Belgian blue bull got its head stuck in a ladder in August 2011, but was able to be rescued without suffering permanent injury.

  • Willard Wigan Microscopic Art

    British artist Willard Wigan makes art works small enough to fit in the eye of a needle.

  • Food For Louis

    Louis Cole is willing to eat anything, including live bugs, mice, decomposing frogs and this live scorpion.

  • The Scream

    Los Angeles-based artist Cain Motter burns and melts old credit cards into unique scupltures that he sells for up to $1,200 -- to pay off his credit card bill.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Dr. Peter Terren of Bunbury, Western Australia, shot more than 200,000 volts of electricity through his body for this high voltage version of Rodin's "The Thinker." He avoided electrocution, in part, by wrapping his torse, arms and legs in insulating foil.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    England's Gary Craig set a record of shorts, er, sorts, by putting on 211 pairs of underwear all at the same time.

  • Tongue Tricks

    Actor Nick Afanasiev can not only touch his own nose with his tongue, he can lick his elbow (you try it!).

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Doug Higley, an artist from California, makes lifelike sculptures of mermaids, atomic death worms and, in this case, chupacabras using only manmade materials.

  • Unbelievable But True Pictures From Ripley's

    A water dog mermaid made by Higley, who once made 42 mermaids for a car promotion in which someone who purchased a car might find a mermaid in the trunk.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    In 2010, BrewDog, a Scottish-based brewery, packaged bottles of its new beer, "The End Of History," inside the bodies of dead animals. The beer, which was 55 percent alcohol, cost $1000 if housed inside a dead squirrel and $750 if stuffed inside a stoat.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Chilean artist Fredo does 3-D pencil drawings that are all just pencil on flat paper. He is only 17, but is already exhibiting his work.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Chinese artist Yank Maoyuan creates animal sculptures by inflating the skins of dead animals.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    At the annual Glen Nevis River Race in Scotland, competitors on inflatable airbeds navigate a treacheous 1.5 mile course down a river that includes a 30-feet waterfall.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Escape artist Anthony Martin skydives while handcuffed and shackled.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Some people are attracted to the idea of having tiny magnets inserted in their fingers so they can pick up metal items such as paper clips.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Hope the cat has 24 digits -- six on each paw.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Jinxi Boo, a mother of three in southern California, has 95 percent of her body covered in tattoos, including an octopus tat across her throat and neck that took 26 hours to complete.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Paul Stender's jet-powered bus can reach 350 miles per hour.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    German skier Henrik May prefers sand to snow and developed a special type of wax that allows him to reach speeds near 60 mph down sand dunes.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Supatra Sasuphan of Bangkok, Thailand, has congenital hyperthichosis, a genetic condition that causes excessive hair growth all over the body. Less than 40 people in the world have it, but she hasn't let it stop her from following her dreams. She hopes to eventually be a teacher.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Tim Cockerill is known as the "Great Inferno" because he happily gargles hot molten lead until it cools and hardens into solid metal. During the day, he works as a zoologist.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    Asha Mandela's hair measures more than 19 feet long; she hasn't cut it in 22 years.

  • Unbelieveable But True Images From Ripley's

    British artist INSA created these 10 inch stiletto shoes with platforms made from elephant dung.

For one thing, he met Willard Wigan, a British artist who creates works that are too small to be seen without a magnifying glass.

"It's the most amazing art I've ever seen," Meyer said.

For various fringe entertainers, like Liu Fei of China has been pulling snakes through his nose for 30 years, there can be no professional honor higher than earning a spot in a Ripley's book


VIDEO: SNAKE MAN

Another unbelievable person Meyer met while working on the newest book was Maria Jose Cristerna, a 35-year-old former attorney from Guadalajara who, turned herself into he "Mexican Vampire Woman" thanks to piercings, tattoos and titanium horns embedded in her skull.

"You look at her and you wouldn't expect her to be the wonderful, nice, generous person that she is," Meyer admitted. "She decided to change her look to raise money for a woman's shelter. How and why she decided to put horns in her head, I'm not sure.

Ripley's shelled out a lot of bread for a portrait of Albert Einstein made from burnt toast by British artist Adam Shelton that will be featured in an upcoming touring exhibtion, "The Science Of Ripley's Believe It Or Not!"

The new book has sections that can be scanned by smartphones to open up digital content -- first for Ripley's -- yet, one thing remains consistent.

"Anything that we put in a book or on display has to be true," he said. "There also has to be a 'wow factor.' We want the whole family to be amazed."

PHOTOS: VAMPIRE WOMAN
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  • Vampire Woman

    Maria Jose Cristerna is a 35-year-old former attorney from Guadalajara, Mexico, who is better known as the "Mexican Vampire Woman" thanks to the large amount of body modification she has had done, including piercings and tattoos all over the body, and the titanium horns she had surgically embedded in her skull.

  • Vampire Woman

    Ripley's Entertainment recently brought Cristerna to their Orlando, Fla., headquarters so they could take body casts of her and create at least five lifesize urethane figures of her for Ripley's Believe It or Not! attractions around the world.

  • Vampire Woman

    For Cristerna, the wax casting was the fulfillment of a long-held fantasy. "It' my vampire dream to be immortal!" she told HuffPost Weird News through a translator. "I have always loved Ripley cartoons, and have admired Ripley's since I was a little girl, so my dream came true."

  • Vampire Woman Gets Immortalized By Ripley's

    Ripley's sculptor Bruce Miller says Cristerna's head presented the biggest challenge. "She has really long hear -- dreadlocks -- and we had to hoist them up over a light fixture to keep them out of the way," he said.

  • Vampire Woman

    Miller said that Cristerna's famous horns also presented a challenge. "She was actually sore from bumping her head a few days ago, so we had to leave them out of the wax casting and add them later," Miller said. "Plus, we've had to cast around her lips and nose piercings."

  • Vampire Woman Gets Immortalized By Ripley's

    Miller says the biggest challenge is yet to come: duplicating the tattoos. "They are so intricate. We have a lot of hours ahead of us," Miller said.

  • Vampire Woman Gets Immortalized By Ripley's

    Cristerna is excited to see the finished product, but she's already convinced it will be good. "I will love it, not just the image, but what is behind me and what I am fighting for, the motive for this is not just my skin, but what is inside me," she said.

  • Vampire Woman Gets Immortalized By Ripley's

    No word on when the Vampire Women sculptures will be unveiled, but there may have to be modifications because Cristerna is not a finished product. "I'd like to remove the floating ribs to decrease the size of my waist and have more implants in my arms," she said. "It's a woman's vanity to want to look better!"